The criminal investigation of an elected official in Douglass Township has advanced to the office of Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane.
The Montgomery County District Attorney's office referred the case against Supervisor Fred Ziegler to Pennsylvania's top law enforcement official, according to township Solicitor Paul Bauer.
During Monday's public meeting, Bauer announced that he had been informed of the referral by Barry Templin, chief of the Douglass Township Police Department. After the meeting, Templin confirmed that Kevin Steele, the first assistant district attorney of Montgomery County, told him of the referral on June 5 or 6.
County law enforcement officials have the ability to investigate the case against Ziegler – a former chief of the township's police department who has also worked in the county's Extradition Unit, according to Bauer. He said the office, headed by District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman, chose to refer the case to the state attorney general.
Bauer declined to comment further of the nature of the investigation. The solicitor advised his clients on the board of supervisors to refrain, as well.
The Office of Attorney General "cannot confirm nor deny the existence of any investigation," according to an email from spokesperson Carolyn E. Myers.
An email message seeking comment from Steele was not returned before the end of business Tuesday.
Township officials forwarded the investigation of an elected official to county authorities in late October or early November of last year, according to township Manager Pete Hiryak.
In February, Bauer initially confirmed the existence of a criminal and state ethics committee investigation against a supervisor, according to minutes posted on the township's website.
Last month, Supervisor Anthony Kuklinski identified Ziegler as the subject of both investigations, according to meeting minutes. Kuklinski, chief of the Spring City Police Department, told the audience during the public comment period of the May 19 meeting that a complaint against Ziegler has been filed with the Montgomery County Detectives Bureau and the state ethics committee, the same minutes state.
"I am not to the supervisor being investigated and no other township employee is being investigated; Mr. Ziegler is the supervisor being investigated," he said, according to the minutes.
The declaration interrupted Ziegler scrutinizing the work of township Treasurer Cindy O'Donnell. When Ziegler stated that O'Donnell "is overstating her bounds," and that "he has met with the U.S. District Attorney and FBI regarding township investigations," Kuklinski interjected, according to the minutes.
During Monday's meeting, Kuklinski called O'Donnell "a witness for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." He added, "I have to protect my employees."
A freedom-of-information act request filed by a reporter for the Town and Country was denied by Hiryak.
"On advice of the township's legal counsel, the township cannot release any information for either investigation until the county and state have completed their investigations and released their findings," Hiryak stated in the denial.
An appeal of the denial was dismissed by the state, citing failure to "address agency grounds for access to denial of records." The Town and Country newspaper is additional other information, including an appeal, related to this case.